The Christmas season is upon us! With all the hustle and bustle it brings. Christmas carols in all the stores (which honestly have been going on since September), brilliant lights on building and streets, festive window displays, and Christmas trees going up in homes around the city (and beyond!).
I am, however, as I am every year, late to the party. Despite all my good intentions and grand resolutions to decorate (and go Christmas shopping!) early, I’m once again at the latter part of November with nary a Christmas ball out to hang (nor a gift bought). My daughter has actually scribbled “Happy Christmas!” on a sheet of paper and stuck it on the little outer-gate to our apartment.
So now you know why I’m a food blogger and not a mom blogger (insert “LOL” emoji here).
And speaking of food…
I’ve been cooking a variety of recipes for Knorr’s Lutong Nanay campaign in the past couple of months. The campaign aims to encourage mommies (and I’ll say daddies too!) to get in the kitchen and prepare home-cooked meals for their families. There was a couple of sinigang recipes (I have a family of staunch sinigang lovers so these were very well received) and our ubiquitous Pinoy-style sweet spaghetti (my childhood favorite). When they announced that their next recipe was Pork Menudo I could not contain my excitement…you see, I am shamefully inexperienced with cooking, what I like to refer to as, our Filipino “red stews”: afritada, menudo, mechado, and kaldereta.
But I’d like to change that. Because, for one, we love Filipino food; two, I love stews; and three, I love all dishes that need copious amounts of rice to go with…and these stews are exactly that. I actually find it strange, when I think about it, that I haven’t cooked these dishes more. High time to rectify the situation.
I was ready for my first foray into Menudo!
Before we get started, let me put a not-so-little caveat out there. And I really feel I need to start off with this because cooking Filipino food, I find, can be quite a minefield, where you can sometimes get your hand or foot blown of for not abiding by tradition.
Now, tradition is something I respect greatly. However, one of the things I love most about cooking, and truthfully one of the reasons I fell in love with it, is that when you cook you can make any dish suit your particular tastes. When you cook, you can make food cater to your likes, and eliminate what you dislike. So what you once liked, you will now love…and what you once disliked, you can now like.
Which is what I did here…I hope the purists won’t mind too much!
(Recipe adapted from Knorr Philippines)
- 1/4 cup cooking oil
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 2 medium or 1 large carrot, peeled and cubed
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 white onion, finely chopped
- 400 grams pork kasim, cut into cubes
- 400 grams pork liempo, cut into cubes
- 2 pieces Knorr pork broth cubes
- 1 400-gram can crushed tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup cubed red and green pepper
– Place a pot large enough to hold all your ingredients over medium high heat. Add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the potatoes and carrots and fry. Remove from the pot and set aside.
– In the same pot sauté the garlic and onions until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the pork and fry until slightly browned.
– Add the Knorr pork broth cubes and stir until dissolved. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, and black pepper. Pour water into the empty tomato can and swirl around to get all the tomato bits out and add to the pot. Mix well.
– Add fried potatoes and carrots to the pot and stir. Continue to cook over medium heat until the pork is tender and the sauce has thickened.
– Add the bell peppers and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Serve.
Alright. As anyone who makes menudo can tell, I didn’t include one of its essential ingredients…the liver. I eat a lot of things (too much in truth) but I just can’t get into pork liver (chicken or beef either…goose liver is a different story though, as is monk fish liver). So I left it out. Don’t shoot me (as my husband I’m sure wanted to when he found out)! But really, I liked it so much better this way. If you use liver then reduce your kasim and liempo to 250 grams each, and add 250 grams pork liver.
I also nixed the raisins for the same reason as above. There isn’t a savory dish with raisins I enjoy. And I would rather cook without them then pick them out.
Also, I replaced the usual tomato sauce with canned crushed tomato. As I mentioned in my last post, I hardly cook with tomato sauce, preferring the chunky freshness of canned tomato instead. To add richness to sauces when I use the canned tomatoes, I add a spoonful of tomato paste. I thought it would be great to make a version of menudo using this combination instead (of the usual tomato sauce)…and I am happy to report that it worked very well.
It seems like I also chopped the cubes of pork and vegetables too big for the regular menudo…but this is more because of inexperience than personal preference. I have to say though that I did like this heartier version, but I’ll be sure to try a smaller dice next time so see which we like best.
This definitely makes for a homey family meal. With the vegetables already in the dish all you need is a big bowl of rice and you are set. My son in particular (who is the one who enjoys saucier dishes) enjoyed this immensely!
Tradition is wonderful, and, like I said, I love and respect it. But I also believe that in the kitchen your food, and your cooking, need to also adjust to your tastes and the dictates of your (and your family’s) life. And putting a great meal on the table for your loved ones (or even just yourself) is one of the best traditions you can have.
And back to Christmas? I’m scribbling on my datebook and making holiday plans, noting when we’ll put the tree up and scheduling in some caroling and maybe even a ballet. Until then though, we will remain, despite our lack of tinsel and proper tradition, under my watch at least, well fed.